28 December 2007

Happy Holidays, everyone!

In the midst of all the gifts...

of the sweet deserts that follow the feast...

and the companionship of family and friends...

let us not forget the Reason for the season. Merry Christmas to one and all!

From Tina, Jo-Lo, and Nick

18 December 2007

Item 2 done!

Last Friday, my friends and I got all hyped up because of the much-anticipated play later that evening. Yes, in my quest to complete the to-do-list I made some time back, I even managed to influence some friends to join in the fun. Bwahahaha!

I'm not really much into play. I just watch when I feel like it, which is like once every other year. The very first play I watched was Ms. Saigon at the CCP, and though it was not Lea Salonga, I enjoyed it immensely. How they were able to fit the helicopter into the set is beyond me. Next was Wizard of Oz in Greenbelt Theater. It was also a memorable affair, with the revolving sets and the Somewhere Over the Rainbow song.

Along the way I missed Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah (I have the comic books and watched the movie and loved it!), Darna when she had her anniversary (Vilma Santos is still the best Darna there is in the movies and Nino Muhlach as Ding).

While waiting for the play to start, I browsed through the program. It said that Avenue Q is like Sesame Street for adults. Of course, I wondered what they meant about that, but when you see the set, it is indeed like a scene from Sesame Street. And the puppets! Memorable characters they are. And did I mention it's Sesame Street for adults? Hahaha! Well... there's puppet nudity involved! But it's really hilarious! The songs are memorable, the characters realistic, the storyline engaging. Of the many wonderful actors on stage, I am only familiar with two: Aiza Seguerra (who plays Gary Coleman) and Rachel Alejandro. Of course I am already that Ms. Alejandro is a great singer, but Aiza's performance was top notch! She played Gary Coleman really well.

The story is about a guy full of hopes and dreams (as any new grad can be) and he looks for an apartment and a job. He ends up in Avenue Q because the rental rates at the other places are quite steep for someone who's just starting to choose his career path. He finds adventure and love and in this neighborhood as he searches for his purpose.

I love the play. The bit with the puppets work really well in weaving the story. Catch it if you have the time! We got our tickets at TicketWorld. Whoops! I just checked. Dec 18 and 22 are already sold-out.

13 December 2007

Check the list

Yipee! I arrived quite early at the office today and so I have time to spare for my blog! Whew! This time of the year is really a hectic time for us.

Anyways, I'd like to update you on my checklist and on my attempts at exercise... starting off with the pedometer.

Well, as I have shared with Dodong earlier on, I'm having some problems with the pedometer. For one thing, the reset button is raised quite prominently and so the chances of it getting reset is high. Trust me, the chances are high. Well, for the times when my pedometer gets through the day, I get readings between 4,400 to 7,500 steps. Not at all in the 10,000 range needed. And I thought I put in a lot of time walking about! I also decided to wear just one pedometer earlier on because whether we like it or not, the readings will be different and having 2 pedometers on the belt is simply ridiculous. hahaha!

And as for my checklist below...
2. Watch a play - I'll be doing that this coming Friday night! My colleagues and I will be watching Avenue Q, thanks to the advice of fellow bloggers Zherwin and Toni!

3. Buy a new phone - Ummm... I'm rooting for the iPhone actually. Ang yabang! hahaha. So therefore... wala pa ito. If you're selling an iPhone, let me know!

4. Trek and spend the night under the stars - We have been planning a pre-Christmas trek but it's not likely to happen anymore. We were supposed to have it last Bonifacio Day weekend but something came up. This weekend is also a no-no since we will be going to my Mother's place to celebrate her birthday in advance, and then before we know it, it's Christmas, and then it's New Year! Time flies...

5. See my friends from Questor days and friends from my old neighborhood - like Meowok said, this is already half-done, as the Questor people and friends met last weekend. Cecil, Meowok, Olan, Cherry, Igor, Bebert, Donna. We missed Kenneth this year though. Ever so thoughtful Cecil gave us nice bookmarks, newlyweds Meowok and Olan distributed gold coins, and sweet couple Bebert and Donna brought Krispy Kremes! We only meet once a year at Christmas time, and so it's always a riot seeing them.

And I'm still working on items 6, 7, and 8. What about you? What do you have in your things-to-do list before the year ends?

PS. I would like to thank Bebert and Donna for supporting my advocacy by not consuming and buying Tawilis and Tawilis products. Thank you so much!

03 December 2007

My to-do-list

Here's a list of things I want to do before the year ends:

1. Watch a movie in iMax - done!
2. Watch a play
3. Buy a new phone (to replace my office phone)
4. Trek and spend the night under the stars
5. See my friends from Questor days and friends from my old neighborhood
6. Pay off my two credit cards - nearly done!
7. Start my food blog
8. Monetize my blog - I could use the money

Been quite busy at the office lately. This time of the year is really hectic. I look forward to the holidays. In the meantime, I'll try to blog whenever I can.

27 November 2007

Beowulf: one howler of a movie!

What a movie! What a movie!

When I saw the Beowulf trailer a couple of months ago at our building lobby (courtesy of these new video ads), I was mesmerized. The last time I watched a full-CGI movie was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and then Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on home video. The first Final Fantasy movie was a breakthrough in that it gave us a glimpse of what could possibly be the future of movies: humans that are not quite human. Think of it. Fans could be idolizing a movie personality, but is not really a live person (although that's happening today... think anime). Also, it can considerably cut down movie production costs, since the characters can work 24 hours a day and not get tired!

Back to the here and now... what is even more intriguing about this movie is that it's being shown in Imax in full 3D! This is an opportunity I don't want to miss. A 2-hour 3D movie!

And so last week we drove off to the Imax theater in the Mall of Asia to catch the 7:00PM movie. The ticket is quite pricey at 400 pesos but hey! It can be worth the experience. And we'll be doing it only once anyways.

So what can I say about the 3D effects and CGI? Amazing. Simply amazing. You have too see it to believe it!

And the storyline? Well. there's a lot of dialogues than I would care for, but eventually I felt that it's a "necessary evil" to develop the plot. The action scenes are exciting, bloody, amazing!

If you want to experience movie watching in a whole new light, go watch Beowulf at the MOA's Imax theater! It's worth the 400 pesos you'll shell out for the movie. After all, you're only going to watch at Imax only once, right? Right? Ummm...

Related site: Beowulf official movie site
Cross-posted at kritikal kritiks

19 November 2007

Pedometer mania

It was four or five months ago when I decided to start an exercise routine and in my search for the ideal exercise - something that doesn't require going to the gym because I've faced the fact that I simply have no time for it - I came across this nifty little device called the pedometer, which counts your steps. To benefit from walking as an exercise, you either have to do brisk walking (and set aside time for this), or accumulate 10,000 steps in a day. Walking? I walk all the time! I was set to go.

Or not.

I searched sports shops and drugstores for a pedometer, and it dawned on me that pedometers aren't exactly popular in Manila. I found one though at a sports shop, but it costs around 2,500 pesos! Darn.

Fast-forward to last week. We visited Divisoria and I chanced upon a digital pedometer for a measly 50 pesos! Of course, I am rather dubious about anything electronics sold in Divisoria, but at 50 pesos, why not try it out?

And then last Sunday while watching TV, we saw this Anlene (a milk brand for adults) commercial encouraging the drinking of milk to fight osteoporosis and exercising daily. And as an added boost to this campaign, they were giving away pedometers for free! Come on! That very afternoon, we went to the supermarket and there it was, the 250 peso-box with the free pedometer. I bought the milk for my wife and kept the pedometer for myself.

And then just yesterday, I dropped by the Japanese 88-peso store and discovered that they are selling pedometers at - you guessed it - 88 pesoses! What a deal! Operators are standing by!

I'm still trying out the two pedometers I have and unfortunately I'm getting different readings. Yes, I have two pedometers on my belt, though I'm not exactly fond of the eye-catching white and green Anlene pedometer which stands out against my otherwise dark-themed office attire. The divi pedometer has a black body with a grayish face. Much better.

Also, I must be accidentally resetting the things when I put the seatbelt on (I travel a lot).

And a colleague asked me if I had a beeper on. That was a laugh.

Question: Are pedometers a girl thing? The packaging makes me think so. Hmmm.

Anyways, I make my report soon about my "pedometer challenge". For now, this device is indeed motivating me to walk-walk-walk!

09 November 2007

Happy Halloween, Happy Birthday!

October is the busiest time for us in terms of birthdays. There's my younger brother Doods on the 13th (he's working in the middle east right now), then there's me on the 27th, then my father on the 29th, and finally my older brother Dennis on the 30th. After which we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Our dearly departed are quite far from us; they're in Dagupan and in Marinduque, the provinces of my father and mother, respectively. So what we do at this time of the year is to simply light up candles at the strike of 6PM on Nov 1. When we were kids, we would simply light up a candle per room and the corners of the house outside to guide wandering spirits on their way. But we liked the candle lighting ceremony so much that we decided to kindle more candles than necessary. Up in Crystal Cave where my parents live, we'd create a path of light on both sides of the winding pathway leading to the house. Soon our neighbors joined in the fun too.

This year though, we weren't able to go so we simply lit candles in our home at Camp 8 while my mother-in-law sent us rice cakes.

The weekend after Halloween, my wife celebrated her birthday! That was November 4. The day before and the morning of the day itself was a frenzy of activity as we prepared for the afternoon party. It was just a small gathering actually, with a few friends and family members.

My sister helped us prepare this delicious pancit!

Jo-Lo was thrilled to have his cousins visit him and was quite exhausted by the time the party slowed down. Til next year, baby Jo-Lo!

31 October 2007

Of Birthdays and Friends

Last week was a most hectic time for me and team marketing, for it was golf week. Our company holds an annual golf tournament for our customers every year to coincide with our company's anniversary. Marketing is the de-facto organizer for this event, and it can really get very busy!

And so I had two hours' sleep last Friday and ran all over the place coordinating things til 7PM, all the while I not having a decent breakfast or lunch because with all the tension that comes with being an organizer, you can hardly find the appetite to eat. And so you can just imagine how totally drained we were after this event.

I went home to Makati and I decided to sit for a while before packing up to go to Baguio. Bad idea! I fell asleep and woke up at the 7:00AM Saturday sunshine! I left for Baguio at lunchtime and arrived 7.5 hours later. I practically spent my birthday in the bus.

IMG_5563But a pleasant surprise awaited me at home. I was greeted by this birthday banner on the wall. Isn't that sweet! And I had two guests: my best friends since way back in high school, Sonny and Leo! We had a lot of fun catching up.

IMG_5551We had a simple dinner of my favorite tinola which my wife cooked and had a couple of beers while we caught up with each other's lives. It was already 2:00AM when we called it a night. What fun! We promised to meet again before the Halloween vacation is over.

IMG_5554The following day, we went to my parents and brought with us a simple food celebration for my father's birthday, which was still going to be on the 29th but we decided to celebrate it on the 28th instead so it can be a double birthday celebration. My father was actually requesting for a brand of red wine but the liquor ban due to the upcoming elections caught us unawares so that will have to wait.
Monday was quite uneventful apart from being my father's birthday and the local elections. We exercised our right to suffrage and then we were supposed to be on our way to La Union but my wife postponed it. So I stayed at home with baby Jo-Lo and his cousins.

I have limited access to the internet at this time so my next post may be after the Halloween vacation already. So until then, have a meaningful All Souls and All Saints Day ahead!

24 October 2007

Blogger's EB

Last Sunday was a fun day for two families as the Ballesteros family met the Zafra family in Baguio City. Aside from being a small reunion (Arnold and I once lived in the same apartment here in Manila), it was also like a Blogger's EB because I have a blog, and so does Arnold (aczafra.com), his daughter Arianna Shay (happy birthday!), and Jo-Lo.

My wife with Jo-Lo, and Arnold's wife Sharon with daughter Arianna

We met for lunch at O Mai Khan near Rizal Park in Burnham, then proceeded to Oh My Gulay (which was closed!), then took a cab to john Hay for coffee. We went to the butterfly farm (I'll post photos of that next time) afterwards.

Darn, I want a camera like that!

When we went to John Hay, I remembered there used to be a firehouse at the entrance (I think this was called Gate 3 before but is now the main entrance). This is gone. There was also an indoor skating rink nearby with flooring made of wood. That's gone as well. In its place is a food and coffee place. At least, the basketball courts are still there. Nearby this is the butterfly garden.

Inspite of these changes in John Hay (and I love musing about the past and saying that the old John Hay was the best), I found myself enjoying the pine trees, the cool weather, and the company of friends and family.

For more photos, head on to Jo-Lo's blog.

20 October 2007

In the blink of an eye...

... lives are lost, and we are once again faced with the fact that terrorism can hit anytime, anywhere. Our prayers for those who perished in yesterday's Glorietta 2 Mall bombing.


17 October 2007

How do you like your cereal?

Phil commented in my jogging post a couple of articles back:
Jogging is overrated. Stick with the brisk walks. Your knees will thank you someday...

This sent me and Harry researching on which is the better exercise. Our finding: other than joggers burning energy faster than brisk walkers and the time it takes to cover a certain distance is faster for joggers, the benefits between these two are relatively similar. Calories burned by brisk walking can equal that of jogging by doing longer walks. Plus, jogging and running incurs more injuries than walking. So we intend to do more brisk walking in the succeeding days. Running, however, will prove to be very useful when we attract howling-mad dogs. Other than that, we will keep jogging to a bare minimum. Thanks Phil!

[Google "jogging vs walking"for info]

Now we come to the pleasant task of breakfast. Before my jogging days, I usually wake up at 7:30 and I skip breakfast, favoring an occasional small mid-morning snack. Now, we wake up at 5:30 at return to the pad at around 6:15. And then we prepare for work at 7. This new schedule has made me crave for breakfast. Simple solution: I bought cereal. But I'm not particularly fond of the taste so to liven it up a bit, I returned to the grocery store and bought bananas and apples.

And then I thought, what if I just bought processed fruits? They will last longer, and I no longer need to peel anything. But when I saw the price of these bottled fruits, I made a beeline back to the fresh fruits section instead.
Hmmm... what about putting fruit cocktail into my cereal? I wonder how it will taste like?

And then I saw these pre-chopped fruits at 20 pesos per pack (see left side of photo below)! Interesting. One pack can last me three days. So I bought one for testing purposes.
I made a quick detour to these goodies and bought dried red ginger, dried meat, and dried pineapple. Chinese sweets! Ummm... I didn't like the dried shredded meat at all. Sayang.

So I had my cereal with the pre-chopped fruits and I added a banana to it. I like how the banana tasted with the cereal, and the crunchy apple gave the meal some texture. I didn't like the orange wedge, though. I'll stick to the apples and bananas medley until my supplies last. And then it's back to the drawing board, so to speak.
So how do you like your cereal? I'd appreciate a tip or two on how to jazz it up. Is there a milk substitute? My stomach is not exactly fond of milk either. Thanks!

15 October 2007

Take a stand today for Nature

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

In my treks and travels with friends, I have seen how tremendously blessed we are with natural resources. Fresh water flows freely amidst lush greenery. At night, nocturnal creatures sing in a celebration of life while fireflies hover about.

However, in this same light, I have also seen the wanton destruction of the very source of our life: mining for gravel in Quezon, dynamite fishing in Nasugbu, carving off the side of the mountains for roads and houses in Baguio, Laguna, Manila, and Batangas, serving of endangered species in Tagaytay, and garbage everywhere. You see the wonder of nature and the destruction of man, and you know that the clock is turning rapidly towards the destruction of these beautiful things. These are just a handful of places, now imagine that happening to the rest of the country!

I think that, in order for us to be truly successful in bringing about change in the way we treat Mother Nature, two important things must be done:
(1) Educate. Let the people know what is happening. In this case, I applaud the efforts of the documentary teams in our local TV stations for their work in environmental issues. Recently, Channel 7 reported news about the Angel Wing Clam, a delicacy found in the waters of Aklan which is being harvested even in the off-season which has caused its rapid decline.

Another documentary showed seahorses being dried up for export to China, Hongkong and other Asian countries where it is being considered an aphrodisiac. To which custom I simply must shout: HELLOOoo! MODERN MEDICINE HAS SOMETHING FOR THAT! Leave the poor, defenseless seahorses alone!

(2) Alternative livelihood programs
Our fisherfolk, farmers, and people living in these areas have to put food on the table, and they have no other alternative but to do what will give them the most money. Their philosophy would be, why look after the welfare of these animals when my own family is dying of hunger? NGOs have been successful with their ecotourism projects; the government can likewise step-up similar activities in the countryside as livelihood sources.

I actually have a third item on my list; it's the active reinforcement and implementation of laws that are supposed to protect our flora and fauna. Empower the guardians of nature by providing them with the necessary equipment and salary to help them do their job efficiently. But this third item may just be the most difficult to enforce, unfortunately. Such is the reality in our beloved country.

So we must do what we must. Educate ourselves and those around us. Begin by segregating and recycling trash. I am proud to say that my wife has started a trash segregation scheme at home.

There are small things that we can do to help the environment which matters a lot when everybody will do it:
(1) Throw your plastic wrappers in garbage bins; recycle, segregate trash; don't let faucets drip; turn off lights when not in use; carpool.
(2) Do not buy products from endangered species! Support my advocacy not to eat Tawilis! Include the seahorse, angel wings clam, and other endangered species in the Philippines.
(3) Spread the word about these endangered species so others can have informed choices.
(4) Volunteer your time or contribute to an environmental cause. Check out Hands on Manila for activities
(5) Go out and experience nature! Visit La Mesa Ecopark, a success story on how organizations can make a difference. Or join an ecotour of the World Wildlife Fund and see for yourself how truly blessed we are, and what we stand to lose if we don't act now.

09 October 2007

May himala!

Ladies and gentlemen, there's a miracle! May himala!

The jogging session my padmate Harry had been planning for weeks has finally started. He was actually waiting for me to be ready, and today was D-day.

Miracle #1: I woke up at 5:30! Well, Harry actually roused me from my restful slumber. I groggily searched for my worn-out rubber shoes and got ready while Harry eyed me by the doorway. Excited? hehe

Miracle #2: We're jogging! I would have preferred brisk walking for starters but there we were. I did a combination of brisk walking and jogging. We circled the block, then moved to the rooftop of the condo for more rounds.

Miracle #3: We're going to the office at 8! We won't be late!

On the downside, I'm not really a morning person so I still feel a bit sleepy as I type this entry on the way to the office. I wonder if this newfound activity will make drastic changes to my morning habits. Yeah, waking up early for one things is really drastic for me. It's a good thing, though. So let's see!
Sunrise, is that you?
["Himala" photo credit: Database of Philippine Movies]

01 October 2007

Taytay Falls in Majayjay, Laguna

Majayjay is one of my favorite destinations because it's relatively easy to go to whether by private transportation or when you commute, and there isn't really a hike involved to get to the falls, there are stores near the registration area for food stuff, and it's simply the nicest way to relax in the midst of beautiful nature.

But ever since the road was constructed, throngs of people have been visiting the place. It can sometimes be an inconvenience when you arrive later in the day and find that every inch of prime camping land has already been taken.

We were, however, taken by surprise when we arrived last Saturday. There were only a couple of tents in the area! We were thus able to get a rather wide space that's quite near the falls. I learned later on that there was actually a storm brewing up. So that's why! Good thing we experienced only drizzle every now and then.

But still, people started coming in droves by late afternoon and soon the bank became a colorful sea of canvass. But still not as many people during the summer.

We had adobo for lunch. Janice cooks a mean adobo!

Not many people around. But it was a different story altogether when the late afternoon brought crowds with it. Still, it was fun having other people about.

This water source was conveniently located beside our camping site.

c-c-c-c-cold water!

This pile of rocks are a new addition to the lagoon. Part of the overhanging cliff used for wall climbing crashed down early this year. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. However , there is a rather disturbing, cinematic reason why such damage was incurred. I have yet to watch a movie to see if the incident narrated to us really happened. Will update you on that.
Cooking dinner
There were 4 of us on day 1. Later that afternoon, Sir Sam and Mommy Helen, as well as Harry arrived in time for dinner and socials. Yipee!

We had a couple of guests from one campsite, and the guitar was loaned to us from another campsite. Why can't we all live in harmony like this in the urban jungle?

Come Sunday, we had loads of fun goofing around in the lagoon and taking photos after our late breakfast. At around 11, we started packing up. But guess what. It rained! Just when we were about to pack up, and we had changed into our dry clothes already. We waited for the rain to stop but after half an hour, we decided to hastily pack everything up. We got wet again, including our bags and mats.

We stopped by a restaurant along the way for late lunch, and I arrived home at 7:30PM. What a trip. Lesson learned: check the weather!

It was still a fun trip though. And we have lots of amazing photographs for memorabilia.

I love it!
Warning: For those who wish to visit Majayjay, better make your trip very early in the morning. Traffic can be terrible because south Superhighway is being renovated.

[some of these amazing photos courtesy of Dave David]

28 September 2007

Important Dates I missed

Time is flying by so fast. Next week is October already! And as the days whizzed by, so did some important dates I was planning to celebrate but never got to do so:
1. Left Hander's Day, August 13th
I have known for a couple of years now that there is this special day especially for us lefties! But this year, I forgot to celebrate it. I already had plans for a simple gathering whereby all the guests will have to eat the left-handed way. Sayang.
2. This blog's third year anniversary, last July 2
When I missed this, I was already planning to ressurect my Baguio-Quezon blog and was thinking of celebrating the anniversary of that one.
3. Baguio-Quezon's third anniversary, last Sept 20
Busy busy busy!

Perhaps I just ought to designate one day before this year ends and I will celebrate all these! Unless I forget again...

26 September 2007

The horrors of war

I had a listless sleep last night.

I dreamt that I was running through the streets with bombs going off in all directions. Buildings and houses were being ravaged by fire. While running I can see Japanese soldiers slowly creeping up inside houses with large plastic containers in tow. I knew it contained gasoline; they found a new place to torch.

At another time I would find myself inside a large hall in the second floor of a building. Grenades were being thrown inside the house. Me and the other men, alerted to the danger, would grab the grenades and throw it out the window. Alas, before I could throw mine, it exploded right before my eyes.

And I saw men cramped up in the dungeons in Fort Bonifacio. The Japanese soldiers hurled gasoline at them, followed by a torch!

Men being bayonetted in shallow graves, or beheaded on a whim. Women raped. Children mercilessly killed....

The most shocking scene is the baby being grabbed from the mother and thrown in the air, and another Japanese soldier hitting the defenseless kid with the bayonette, impaling him to death.

The horror of war. It brings out the beast in humans.

I am just halfway through the book "By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II" by Alfonso Aluit, a day-by-day account of savagery and hatred in 1945. I solemnly hope that, for my kid, we will never see war again.

Aluit, Alfonso (1994). By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II 3 February - 3 March 1945. Philippines: National Commission for Culture and the Arts. ISBN 971-8521-10-0.

Related links:
World War II in the Philippines: The lasting effect on the Filipino people by Alfono Aluit
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